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June 24, 2018

By The Numbers: Labor Day in the United States

The first observance of Labor Day was likely on Sept. 5, 1882, when some 10,000 workers assembled in New York City for a parade. The parade inspired similar events across the country, and by 1894 more than half the states were observing a “workingmen’s holiday” on one day or another.

Later that year, with Congress passing legislation and President Grover Cleveland signing the bill on June 29, the first Monday in September was designated “Labor Day.” This national holiday is a creation of the labor movement in the late 19th century and pays tribute to the social and economic achievements of workers in America.

The U.S. Census Bureau has provided the following profile and statistics on Labor Day in the United States.

Who Are We Celebrating?

159.8 million

The number of people age 16 and over in the nation’s labor force as of May 2017. Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Table A www.bls.gov/news.release/pdf/empsit.pdf

Our Jobs

Largest Occupations, May 2016                                                      Number of Employees

Retail salespersons                                                                                             4,528,550

Cashiers                                                                                                              3,541,010

Combined food preparation and serving workers,                                             3,426,090

       including fast food

Office clerks, general                                                                                         2,955,550

Registered nurses                                                                                               2,857,180

Customer service representatives                                                                      2,707,040

Laborers and freight, stock and material movers, hand                                     2,587,900

Waiters and waitresses                                                                                       2,564,610

Secretaries and administrative assistants, except legal,                                     2,295,510

  medical and executive

General and operations managers                                                                      2,188,870

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Largest occupations in the United States, May 2016 www.bls.gov/oes/2016/may/area_emp_chart/area_emp_chart.htm

16.3 million

The number of wage and salary workers age 16 and over represented by a union in 2016. This group included both union members (14.6 million) and workers who reported no union affiliation but whose jobs were covered by a union contract (1.7 million). Among states, New York continued to have the highest union membership rate (23.6 percent), and South Carolina had the lowest rate (1.6 percent).

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Economic News Releases



15.3 million

The number of employed female workers age 16 and over in service occupations in 2015. Among male workers age 16 and over, 11.7 million were employed in service-related occupations. Source: U.S. Census Bureau, 2015 American Community Survey, Table C24010 https://factfinder.census.gov/bkmk/table/1.0/en/ACS/15_1YR/C24010


The percentage increase in employment, or 143.7 million, in the United States between December 2015 and December 2016. In December 2016, the 344 U.S. counties with 75,000 or more jobs accounted for 72.8 percent of total U.S. employment and 78.1 percent of total wages. These 344 counties had a net job growth of 1.4 million over the year, which accounted for 80.7 percent of the overall U.S. employment increase. Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Economic News Release www.bls.gov/news.release/cewqtr.nr0.htm

Another Day, Another Dollar

$51,212 and $40,742

The 2015 real median earnings for male and female full-time, year-round workers, respectively. The 2015 real median household income of $56,516, an increase in real terms of 5.2 percent from the 2014 median of $53,718. This is the first annual increase in median household income since 2007, the year before the most recent recession. Source: U.S. Census Bureau, Income and Poverty in the United States: 2015www.census.gov/library/publications/2016/demo/p60-256.html


The 2015 median Asian household income, the highest among race groups. The median income of non-Hispanic, white households was $62,950 and for black households it was $36,898. For Hispanic households the median income was $45,148. Source: U.S. Census Bureau, Income and Poverty in the United States: 2015 www.census.gov/library/publications/2016/demo/p60-256.html

Fastest Growing Jobs


The projected percentage growth from 2014 to 2024 in the number of wind turbine service technicians (4,400 jobs in 2014), the projected fastest-growing occupation. Meanwhile, the occupation expected to add the greatest number of positions over this period is personal care aides (458,100). Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Table 1.3, Fastest growing occupations, 2014 and projected 2024, and Table 1.4, Occupations with the most job growth, 2014 and projected 2024 www.bls.gov/emp/ep_table_103.htm


Employee Benefits


The percentage of full-time, year-round workers ages 19 to 64 covered by health insurance during all or part of 2015. Source: U.S. Census Bureau, Health Insurance Coverage in the United States: 2015 www.census.gov/content/dam/Census/library/publications/2016/demo/p60-257.pdf

Say Goodbye to Summer

Labor Day is celebrated by most workers in America as the symbolic end of the summer and the start of the back-to-school season.


The number of shoe stores for back-to-school shopping in 2015. Also catering to back-to-school needs were 28,910 family clothing stores; 7,885 department stores; 7,185 children and infants’ clothing stores; 6,475 office supply and stationery stores; and 6,870 book stores. Source: U.S. Census Bureau, 2015 County Business Patterns



The number of sporting goods stores nationwide in 2015. Examples of these types of stores include athletic uniform supply, fishing supply and exercise equipment, as well as bicycle and golf pro shops. In U.S. sports, college football teams usually play their first games the week before Labor Day, with the NFL traditionally playing its first game the Thursday following Labor Day. Source: U.S. Census Bureau, 2015 County Business Patterns, NAICS 451110 https://factfinder.census.gov/bkmk/table/1.0/en/BP/2015/00A1//naics~451110


The number of travel agents employed full time, year-round in the United States in 2015. In addition, there were 17,915 tour and travel guides employed full time, year-round nationwide. On a weekend intended to give U.S. workers a day of rest, many people climb into their drivers’ seats or board an airplane for a quick end of the summer getaway. Source: U.S. Census Bureau, 2015 American Community Survey, Table B24124



The number of paid employees (for the pay period including March 12) who worked for a gasoline station in the United States in 2015. Oregon (11,003 paid gasoline station employees) and New Jersey (18,095 paid gasoline station employees) are the only states without self-service gasoline stations. Oregon was the first state to make Labor Day a holiday in February 1887. Source: U.S. Census Bureau, 2015 County Business Patterns, NAICS 447 https://factfinder.census.gov/bkmk/table/1.0/en/BP/2015/00A1/0100000US|0100000US.04000/naics~447

The Commute to Work

6.5 million

The number of commuters who left for work between midnight and 4:59 a.m. in 2015. They represented 4.6 percent of all commuters. The most common time was between 7 a.m. and 7:29 a.m. — with 20.9 million commuters. Source: U.S. Census Bureau, 2015 American Community Survey, Table B08132 https://factfinder.census.gov/bkmk/table/1.0/en/ACS/15_1YR/B08132


The percentage of workers age 16 and over who worked at home in 2015. Source: U.S. Census Bureau, 2015 American Community Survey, Table B08128 https://factfinder.census.gov/bkmk/table/1.0/en/ACS/15_1YR/B08128


The percentage of workers age 16 and over who drove alone to work in 2015. Another 9.0 percent carpooled and 0.6 percent biked to work. Source: U.S. Census Bureau, 2015 American Community Survey, Table S0801 https://factfinder.census.gov/bkmk/table/1.0/en/ACS/15_1YR/S0801

26.4 minutes

The average time it took workers in the United States to commute to work in 2015. New York (33.1 minutes) and Maryland (32.6 minutes) had the most time-consuming commutes. Source: U.S. Census Bureau, 2015 American Community Survey, Table R0801 https://factfinder.census.gov/bkmk/table/1.0/en/ACS/15_1YR/R0801.US01PRF

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